Speech Therapy

Back to School for Special Needs
Speech, Occupational, and Physical Therapy Prep for Back-to-School
Speech, Occupational, and Physical Therapy Prep for Back-to-School 1000 1000 PTN Chicago

Back to school is upon us once again, and this can be both an exciting and stressful time of year for the children we work with – and their parents! Whether your little ones are looking forward to learning new things or feeling anxious about fitting in, there are several things that you can do to help them feel more prepared for the school year to come. Let’s take a look at several simple areas of focus within speech therapy, physical therapy, and occupational therapy that you can practice with your child leading up to that first day of school.

Speech Therapy Back to School Prep

Role Playing – If your child is nervous about meeting new children, you can help them feel more at ease by playing a simple role-playing game. Pretend to be another child that they’re meeting for the first time and have a conversation with them. Help your child think of appropriate ice-breakers and things they can talk about comfortably with new friends.

Curiosity Prep – Children have a tendency to ask questions that can come across as rude and hurtful when they are confronted with something they aren’t familiar with – like another child’s speech impediment. Before school begins, it can sometimes be helpful to gently warn your child that they might get questioned about the way that they speak by other children. Then you can work with your child to find simple answers to the questions they might be asked in order to help their new friends understand them better. (This is an area where a speech therapist can offer a lot of helpful advice!)

Occupational Therapy Back to School Prep

School-Specific OT Challenges – Going back to school – or going to school for the first time – can mean being confronted with new occupational challenges. For example, your child probably doesn’t open a lunch box very often at home. Work with your OT to think of the various occupational skills your child might find useful to practice before school begins.

Waiting Games – A lot of school is sitting quietly and waiting for your turn. If your child has trouble sitting still or gets easily distracted, it might be helpful to practice some mental games that can keep your child focused or occupy their mind while they wait in line. For example, your child can quietly try to find objects that are every color of the rainbow.

Physical Therapy Back to School Prep

Classroom Tour – If possible, try to arrange a tour of your child’s classroom before school begins with their new teacher. That way you can identify any areas that might be difficult for your child to maneuver or unsafe for your child for whatever reason. Having some advance warning will allow both your child and their teacher time to adjust. This is also a useful thing to do if your child has physical impairments.

Explore Outdoors – After your classroom tour, why not explore your school’s outdoor areas? You can walk through the halls of the school and then make your way outside. Let your child practice on the school playground or on the stairs leading up to the school entrance over the summer so they are familiar with these areas prior to school starting. It can be fun for them to see what’s waiting for them both inside and out.

Happy Anniversary PTN
6 Favorite Fun Therapy Ideas to Ring in Our Anniversary!
6 Favorite Fun Therapy Ideas to Ring in Our Anniversary! 1000 1000 PTN Chicago

This month we are absolutely thrilled to be celebrating our ninth anniversary. The actual anniversary is June 22, and we can’t believe how fast the time has gone. It has been an absolute pleasure working with such wonderful and diverse children and their fantastic families, and we can’t wait to keep it up for another nine years – and well beyond!

To celebrate our anniversary, we wanted to share some of our favorite occupational, speech, and physical therapy activities that parents and children can enjoy together at home. These play therapies are simple and don’t require a trip to the store, but they can offer hours of entertainment while also helping your child develop skills that will last a lifetime.

For sensory development…

Nothing beats a good old-fashioned sensory bin. The great thing about sensory bins is that they can be regularly updated and adjusted with new objects that your child likes. To make your own sensory bin, first you’ll need a plastic storage tub with a lid. You probably have one under your bed or hidden away in your kitchen or closet right now. Next, fill the bin about half way with a base material that your child can safely sift through. That material might be popcorn kernels, packing peanuts, or dry rice. The final step is hiding fun sensory objects in the bin for your child to discover and enjoy. Try to find things that will engage a variety of senses. For example, puffy poms are great to touch, tea bags are fun to smell, and oversize beads are beautiful to look at!

For gross motor skills…

One of our favorite activities that helps develop gross motor skills is playing pretend! This activity is wonderful, because it can be whatever you want, and it lets both you and your child stretch your imaginations. Maybe you can take turns pretending to be different animals. Or you can pretend that the floor is lava and jump between cushions and pillows laid out on the floor. You can stomp around like dinosaurs, or practice climbing (with supervision!) like monkeys.

For fine motor skills…

A great game for developing fine motor skills and getting some occupational therapy in at the same time is Restaurant! Play this make-believe game in your kitchen with actual pots, pans, and safe utensils like spatulas. You can even break out some real food like dry pasta or those baby carrots you’ve been trying to get your child to eat to make the game even more fun. Moving the game into the kitchen helps your child gain comfort in a different environment while practicing skills like stirring, scooping, and following directions, all while being creative.

For a DIY toy…

The simplest of simple do-it-yourself toys is the cardboard roll at the center of your paper towels. When you finish a roll, hand the cardboard over to your little one and tell her that it’s a telescope, or maybe a magic wand, or tape two together and make binoculars. A cardboard roll can become a log for dolls to sit on or a tunnel for small cars or Legos to slide through.

For speech therapy…

Try playing “I Spy” around your house – or anywhere, for that matter! But home is a great place to start with this game, as your child will be able to name more of the things in their environment. This game helps with building vocabulary, especially adjectives and nouns, and also builds critical thinking skills.

For balance…

Make a gym in your living room – or any room that has soft carpet – by grabbing a stack of your child’s books and lining them up on the ground to make a balance beam. Your child will have fun standing on their books and practicing walking across them without falling off. (And if you’re worried about books being mistreated, don’t be! The more that books feel like toys and rewards, the more your child will want to look inside.)

We hope you enjoy all of these play activities this summer. Give us a call anytime for more recommendations tailored to your child!

Better Speech and Hearing Month
All the Ways We Can Celebrate Better Speech and Hearing Month Together
All the Ways We Can Celebrate Better Speech and Hearing Month Together 1000 1000 PTN Chicago

May is Better Speech and Hearing Month, and we all can do our part to help raise awareness.

Many people don’t know just how common speech, language, and hearing disorders are among children. There also tends to be a misconception that if someone has difficulty speaking or if they are deaf, they must have other physical or mental impairments, which simply isn’t true. By spreading the word about BSHM and sharing both facts and personal stories of how speech, language, and hearing disorders have affected your friends or family, you can help make the world a more informed, understanding, and accepting place.

Here are a few stats that we found interesting courtesy of the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. Feel free to share these on social media!

  • Almost 8% of children between the ages of 3 and 17 have had a voice, speech, language, or swallowing disorder in the past 12 months.
  • Among children who currently have a speech, language, voice, or swallowing disorder, about 34% of children aged 3-10 have multiple speech or language disorders. That number drops to 25% for children aged 11-17.
  • The prevalence of speech and language disorders is highest from the ages of 3 to 6 – during those formative years when most children are learning to speak with fluency (almost always with bumps along the road).

And here are some interesting stats about hearing:

  • 15% of children between the ages of 6 and 19 have some degree of hearing loss.
  • Between two and three of every 1,000 children in the United States are born with detectable hearing loss in one or both ears.
  • More than 90% of deaf children are born to hearing parents.

In addition to outreach on social media, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) has put together a great list of ways that you can celebrate Better Speech and Hearing Month.

Personally, we love teaching children about communication through – you guessed it! – play. Here are a few simple games that you can enjoy with your children to help them understand what communication is and why it’s so important.

Simon Says – This classic game is wonderful because it can be played virtually anywhere. Driving in the car, in the park, around the dinner table… you name it. By having your children listen carefully and follow instructions, they can practice some of the fundamental elements of strong communication.

The I Love You Game – Ok, I just made this game up, but I think it’s going to catch on. The game is simple – work with your child to come up with all the different ways that you can express love to one another. You might start by saying “I love you” out loud. Then you could give each other hugs. Or maybe kisses on the cheek. Maybe you could express love with a dance or by doing something nice for each other. See how many fun ways you and your little one can come up with to communicate your love for each other. And when you get tired of being lovey-dovey (if that ever happens), try playing the game with other concepts or emotions like happiness, sadness, and surprise.

therapeutic skills
Simple Ways to Keep Your Parenting Resolutions This Year
Simple Ways to Keep Your Parenting Resolutions This Year 1000 667 PTN Chicago

With a new year upon us, you might be thinking about New Year’s resolutions. One common resolution that we hear from the parents we work with is that they’d like to create more time in their busy schedules to work on home program activities. It’s a goal that is easier said than done, because there is only so much time in the day, and often the urgent outweighs the important.

Whether your child benefits from occupational, physical, or speech therapy, finding time to work on those skills with your child on a regular basis is a great goal that will benefit your child immensely. One easy way to get started with as little stress and time-commitment as possible is to incorporate therapeutic strategies into the things that you already do with your child.
Here are some simple examples of ways that you can incorporate therapy into activities that you likely already do every day.

Sing songs in the car.

When driving your child to school or daycare, turn off your radio and ask your child what song they’d like to sing. If they’re too young or not verbal enough to choose, pick a few songs that you like and sing them for your child. Even just listening to songs stimulates a variety of areas in the brain and improves language development. By choosing interactive songs like “If You’re Happy and You Know It…” you can also help your child develop their listening and imitation skills.

Take a back seat during bedtime.

At bedtime, it’s easy for us parents to go into autopilot – putting our kids in jammies, brushing their teeth, and choosing the books we’ll read for them. Whenever time allows, try to take a step back and give your child a bit more control over bedtime. Let them choose their jammies and give them the opportunity, if possible, to try to undress and redress themselves. Likewise, show them how to brush their own teeth and let them have a say in what books you read. Going about bedtime this way will take a bit more time, but it will help your child enjoy the routine more and improve their self-help skills.

Invite your child into the kitchen.

Whenever possible, let your child work with you in the kitchen to prepare meals. Their help might be as simple as pouring pre-measured ingredients into a bowl or even pressing the appropriate buttons on the microwave. Your child may also enjoy playing with pretend food or with unused pots and pans on the kitchen floor while you cook. You can talk about what you’re making and practice skills like counting and following directions.

But most of all, remember to enjoy the time you have with your little one. Don’t worry about carving out a ton of time each day. A little one on one time goes a long way!

For more suggestions, feel free to reach out any time. Our occupational therapists, speech therapists, and physical therapists are here to support both you and your child in any way that we can.

Speech Therapy Games for Kids
3 Speech Games You Can Play to Get Your Child Ready for School
3 Speech Games You Can Play to Get Your Child Ready for School 1000 519 Thomas Chibucos

The back-to-school season can be a time of a lot of mixed emotions for both parents and kids. Your child might be thrilled to see their friends again but saddened about losing some of the freedom they enjoyed over the summer. Or if they’re just starting school, they may be nervous about fitting in or making new friends. You, likewise, might be ecstatic to no longer have to worry about summer childcare but equally nervous about how your child will do in a classroom.

One simple way that both you and your child can feel more prepared for school is with learning games that will help them strengthen their social skills and also build the fundamentals of learning that will help them succeed academically. Here are three speech games that you can play with your child to help prepare them for school.

High / Low

This is a fun game that you can play around the dinner table or before bed. As a family, go around and each share what your high for the day was and what your low for the day was. This game is wonderful for helping children reflect on their experiences, vocalize their emotions, and process things that went well and things that they would have liked to go differently. It’s also a simple way to connect as family every day. When you share your experiences, it helps your children learn more about what you value and how you express your feelings.

Singing

Singing with your child is a wonderful way to have a good time, build their confidence, and work on a variety of speech and language disorders. For example, children who have a stutter often have an easier time singing than speaking. Singing is also an exercise in breathing and swallowing, and it’s fun!

Often the biggest obstacle to singing with kids is finding songs that won’t drive you crazy. Don’t settle for nursery rhymes if they’re going to make you nuts. Instead, try finding Disney songs, kid-friendly versions of pop songs, or even old standards that you’ll be able to sing on repeat with ease.

The Rhyming Game

This simple game can be played anywhere. Use it to pass the time while waiting in line or while driving or anywhere else. Simply choose a simple word and have your child come up with as many rhyming words as possible. You can also go back and forth, each contributing words that rhyme. This is a great way to help build your child’s vocabulary and encourage them to think critically.

For slightly older children (3+), you can take this game to the next level by working together to memorize a short poem. Poems are great for appreciating the natural rhythms and cadence of language and, again, building vocabulary.

If your child is having a difficult time expressing themselves, or if you’re worried about a possible speech or language disorder, our Chicago speech therapists may be able to help. Give us a call to schedule a free consultation and learn more about how Chicago speech therapy could help your child feel more confident and expressive.

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